Chapter Five

BALANCE

While in Chapter Four we studied the technique and the functional logic back of space and mass patterning, there are other ageless design principles which must be known to the designer to guide him in his space and mass planning. The modern significance of these principles is just as important today as in the times of the Egyptians.

As emphasized in Chapter Four, space and mass division-ing lines form a pattern of interlacing lines crossing the volumetric casing, mapping the different surfaces into smaller areas. While in Chapter Four emphasis was placed on the structural significance of the divisions, nevertheless we added a major division, a color band, at the base of the child's cabinet, as in Figure 46. This band had little structural use excepting as a scuffle band, hence it must have been added to improve the appearance of the design, which points out that space and mass divisions, while primarily structural, may have an aesthetic function, thus placing a broader construction on functional ism. We are beginning to suspect that the term function may mean more than to be purely serviceable. We are beginning to accept the fact that beauty in an article may have a distinct functio?ial bearing upon our well-being, and hence be of service.

This brings us to a consideration of the eternal principle of balance, checking, as it does, both stability and beauty. For furniture designers, there are four forms or types of balance: (1) balance of spaces and masses, (2) balance of thrusts, (3) balance of tone, (4) balance of color. What are their effects in furniture design?

Definition of Balance

Balance means holding all parts of the design together in equilibrium. "Is the design top-heavy? is it one-sided? is it unstable?"—all, usually, queries regarding balance. Figure 52, Plate 6, is emblematic.

Lack of balance will cause us to feel uncomfortable, with a desire to move our bodies in such a manner as to restore balance. Subconsciously we actually restore balance in our bodies or suffer the results in a fall. Subconsciously we do the same form of correcting when we see an unbalanced design.

The vaudeville performer who piles tables and chairs to form a tower, climbs to the top and rocks the column backward and forward, is an example of unbalance. We, in turn, subconsciously rock our bodies in a direction which will check his fall, trying to restore his balance. Foot- and basketball games call forth much of our mass response to this stimulus.

It is believed that this physiological response has a distinct connection with our desire for proper balance. A perfectly balanced pattern will give a feeling of ease and rest with an appreciation of the pleasure accompanying this phase of beauty successfully accomplished.

Space-and-Mass Balance Patterns

While the foregoing explanation deals with balance as a general problem, we must now deal with specific balancing phases in current practice. The most common form of space-and-mass balance is illustrated in Figure 50, Plate 6, and is identified as formal or symmetrical balance. Even masses on each side and of equal volume balance on the space in the center of the desk. In other words, it is like-sided balance, and Figure 55, Plate 6, is of a similar type of pattern.

Like most design principles, analogies may be found in

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